Africans outperform African-Americans in Seattle schools: Even the children of destitute Somali refugees do better.
The district compared blacks who speak English at home with those who speak other languages at home but aren’t considered English Language Learners.
Amharic-speaking students from Ethiopia scored the highest, nearly reaching the district average in reading. Somalis did worse than other African immigrants, but much better than English-only blacks.
• Only 36 percent of black students who speak English at home passed their grade’s math test, while 47 percent of Somali-speaking students passed. Other black ethnic groups did even better, although still lower than the district average of 70 percent.
• In reading, 56 percent of black students who speak English passed, while 67 percent of Somali-speaking students passed. Again, other black ethnic groups did better, though still lower than the district average of 78 percent.
Black immigrants attend college at a much higher rate than U.S.-born blacks or whites, concluded a John Hopkins study in 2009. The immigrants were educated, successful people in their home countries, researchers said.
However, that’s not true of the very poor Somalis who found refuge in Seattle.
Seattle School Board member Betty Patu, who has worked for decades with community groups serving students of color, said she has noticed that all immigrant families, regardless of socioeconomic status, place high value on education.
“Their motivation is different,” she said. “When you leave your country, you come here to do something. You don’t come here just to sit around and do nothing.”
In short, it’s the culture, stupid.
However, Marty McLaren, a board member and former teacher, blames “a culture of low expectations . . . dating back to the days of slavery” for American blacks’ poor performance. Faced with institutionalized racism, students give up, she said.